Much like the season itself, the fresh fruits of the summer often expire long before we want them to. All too often, you reach into the fridge to find that the strawberries you purchased just a few days ago have turned moldy. A new trick, however, can substantially expand their shelf life using a common household ingredient.
Vinegar has an extensive and ever-increasing list of household uses, and because it is non-toxic, unlike other cleaners, it can even be used to clean fresh produce. Editors at Cook’s Illustrated spoke to NPR about the effectiveness of vinegar in cleaning fruit prior to eating it—mixing one part vinegar and three parts water and submerging the fruit in the solution removed 98 percent of bacteria, making the fruit significantly cleaner than it was when rinsed with an antibacterial soap or with water alone. So you may not really need those pricey produce washes at all—and make sure you know these other produce mistakes you didn’t know you were making.
This germ-killing power also extends to killing the spores that cause mold, according to Allrecipes. By following the same process of submerging strawberries in three parts water and one part vinegar, you can suppress the growth of mold for far longer than if you hadn’t rinsed them with the solution. But be careful: This trick doesn’t kill any mold that has already grown, so make sure you do it before they start to get fuzzy. Worried your berries will taste like vinegar? A thorough rinse with plain water afterward will make sure there are no lingering unwanted tastes. Here’s what can happen if you don’t wash your produce.
Lastly, make sure the strawberries are as dry as possible before storing them in the fridge. Pat dry with paper towels, or you can even line a salad spinner with paper towels and spin until they’re dry, then pack them away in a clean container lined with extra paper towels to get rid of any residual moisture. For larger fruits, you can put the same mixture in a spray bottle to clean them, or check out these other tips to keep fruits and vegetables fresh longer.